Dr. Maria Montessori was a physician, scientist and the ultimate educator. Born in 1870, she reaped the benefits of educational reform in Italy during the mid to late 19th century, though not without hardships and sacrifice. She had no desire to become an educator and yet, while making scientific observations of children who were then called mentally deficient, she began to see that it was not the children’s deficiencies but the educational process that prevented them from reaching their full potential. As she so aptly put it, “Scientific observation then has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.”
She was able to use her research to establish the Casa de Bambini in 1907. It was here that she was able to put into practice her philosophy and methods for educating all young children. She proved through scientific observation that children learn by actively working upon their environment. Their bodies must manipulate, see, hear, taste, touch and feel all the components of the environment in order to absorb it into their very being. The environment therefore must be rich and varied. Montessori discovered that children have an innate need for order at this young age. The rich environment when combined, with a clear, orderly system of presentation, lead children to auto-education and a calm and joyful sense of self. Additionally, the children develop independence, concentration, and coordination through manipulation of the environment.
Today we continue to follow Dr. Montessori’s principles and teaching methods because, over time, they have been proven to be as valid as they were when she instituted them.
The “prepared environment” as Montessori called it, is beautiful, full of light and air, stocked with enticing materials that call to the children to be used and cared for. And indeed, that is precisely what the children do. They use and care for all the materials and their classroom with the greatest attention because they know it belongs to each of them.
Montessori realized that every child is different and that each develops at his or her own pace. Therefore, they are given the time to explore concepts for as long as they need in a nurturing, safe environment. They are able to move as quickly or as slowly as need be with a teacher who is trained to observe and then encourage the children to do the next step in “The first step an intending Montessori teacher must take is to prepare herself. For one thing, she must keep her imagination alive … The Montessori teacher is constantly looking for a child who is not yet there … The teacher … must have a kind of faith that the child will reveal himself …” -Dr. Maria Montessori are able to move as quickly or as slowly as need be with a teacher who is trained to observe and then encourage the children to do the next step in their self construction.
The end result of this auto-education is children who have a love of learning and joyfully seek it out.
Dr. Montessori believed that a child’s full potential – physical, intellectual, and emotional – can be reached only if the child is given the opportunity to develop through the exploration of the environment. Montessori education exposes children to the physical and cognitive structures of a highly prepared environment that create an inner discipline and spark their innate curiosity and motivation to learn. Patterns of concentration and attention to detail, when established early, produce a confident, competent learner in later years.
Dr. Maria Montessori’s experiences and discoveries resulted not only in a philosophy, but also in a methodology that included scientifically-based, inter-related, concrete learning materials that you see in Montessori classrooms today. It is through these Montessori materials that the young child experiences sensory exploration and classification of relationships among concrete objects. These relationships lead the older child toward intellectual discovery and investigation of abstract concepts by virtue of a comprehensive curriculum.
The nature of this curriculum allows the children to work individually and in small groups, and progress at their own pace in a non-competitive environment. The teacher prepares the environment, directs activity, and presents stimulating lessons to the children. Within this rich environment, each child takes initiative and is driven to academic accomplishment.
The Montessori educational program offers individual instruction, which establishes a powerful relationship between the child, the teacher, and the learning materials. Recognizing each individual child’s innate potential, natural curiosity, and readiness, the Montessori Teacher trusts her keen observation skills to take advantage of the precise moment to offer a new lesson.
Within the dynamic Montessori curriculum, lessons emphasize creative problem solving, critical thinking and creativity. Through Montessori education the child builds character, gains a sense of social and global responsibility, and develops inner discipline.